Mindful eating is based on mindfulness, a Buddhist concept. It is something that is suggested to be beneficial AND something I like to practice myself. Although it may not be for everyone, there is research to suggest that it may be a very helpful tool and has also been associated with increased enjoyment whilst eating and reduced episodes of bingeing.(1)
Additionally, it may be helpful for individuals who suffer with eating disorders, depression and / or anxiety. (2, 3)
Mindful eating encourages you be more aware of your senses and acknowledge your mind and body’s response to the food you are eating. By slowing down and eating mindfully, it may help you identify and become more in-tune with your hunger and satiety signals and appreciate the taste and textures of the food, thus increasing enjoyment!
The fundamentals of mindful eating include:
- Eating slowly and without distraction.
- Listening to physical hunger cues and eating until you’re full.
- Distinguishing between actual hunger and non-hunger triggers for eating.
- Engaging your senses by noticing colors, smells, sounds, textures and tastes.
- Learning to cope with guilt and anxiety about food.
- Eating to maintain overall health and well-being.
- Noticing the effects food has on your feelings and figure.
- Appreciating your food.
- Enjoying your food.
The concept allows you to replace automatic thoughts and reactions (may also be distractions) with more conscious responses. (4)
Although it is not realistic to eat mindfully at every meal – (we lead busy lives and sometimes there is just no time to sit down and enjoy your food properly) – but perhaps practicing this X amount of times a week, may be helpful to you. Now like I said, this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I personally make an effort to eat breakfast and dinner in a mindful way. I enjoy the whole experience so much more! But hey, that is just me!
How to practice mindful eating
Practicing mindfulness includes a series of exercises and meditations.
If committed, some may find it helpful to attend a seminar, online course or workshop on mindfulness or mindful eating.
However, the points below make a good starting point if you want to experiment with eating mindfully:
- Slow down: Eat more slowly and try not to rush your meals.
- Chew thoroughly.
- Get rid of any distractions by turning off the TV and putting down your phone.
- Eat in silence, or try having the radio on in the background if you prefer some background noise.
- Focus on how the food makes you feel.
- Focus on the taste and texture of the food.
- Savour each bite.
- Try and identify when you start to feel full.
To begin with, it is a good idea to pick one meal per day, to focus on these points.
Once you’ve got the hang of this, mindfulness will become more natural. Then you can focus on implementing these habits into more meals.